FTSE flat, energy firms dip ahead of cost-of-living announcement, JD extends losses on Cowgill exit and Serco delivers positive surprise

“The FTSE 100 reacted with a shrug to a £10 billion package from the UK Government to support households struggling with the cost of living,” says AJ Bell Investment Director Russ Mould.

“There were suggestions in some quarters this could add to inflationary pressures if the support is not sufficiently well targeted – it feels like governments and central banks are walking an increasingly narrow tightrope all the time.

“A windfall tax is widely expected to fund the package and energy firms were weak again this morning as they awaited the detail of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s plans with all the relish of a pupil facing a particularly tricky exam.

“Investors had their first proper chance to react to the departure of JD Sports chair Peter Cowgill, news which was sneaked out just before last night’s market close. Despite the shares not extending yesterday’s fall too much it’s clear the announcement has created significant concern.

“Cowgill’s immediate departure brings to an end an extremely successful tenure at the top of the sports apparel seller, where he helped the company to be among the best performing names on the stock market before this year’s big sell-off.

“Coming just five months after a £5 million fine was issued by the regulator it appears JD is keen to get its ducks in a row and finally address corporate governance concerns by splitting the role of CEO and chair.

“There are reports Cowgill opposed some of these changes and investors must decide whether the apparent governance improvements were worth losing such a successful leader of the business.”

“Elsewhere, outsourcing almost became a dirty word in the wake of the collapse of Carillion but Serco is demonstrating that picking up service functions from governments and other large institutions can be a profitable exercise.

“The company has taken a hit as its work during the pandemic has inevitably eased as restrictions have been lifted and much of the world returns to some level of normality. However, it is doing well internationally and finding other work to take up the slack.”

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